January 13, 2016
I never really liked the taste and texture of meat so I want be vegetarian. What are the best sources of protein? Is there anything else that I should be watching?
A common concern for a lot of vegetarians is their protein intake, it’s hard to know if you’re getting enough! The average person needs about more than 0.8-1.1 grams per kg body weight (or .36-0.5 grams per pound), or approximately 1.5 grams per kg (.68 grams per pound) for athletes.
So the average man, who doesn’t life weights or exercise a whole lot, only needs about 60 grams of protein daily. Typically, North Americans eat well above that number.
Of course when you think about vegetarians and protein, you think about nuts, beans and eggs – the meat alternatives – first. But you can get protein in other places too! Dairy products, vegetables and whole grains can help you add up the protein grams too.
For vegetarians, what’s equally as important as the amount of protein is the type of protein. Protein that comes from animal sources, and the protein in quinoa, buckwheat and soy (tofu included) is what’s called complete protein. Plant forms of protein are not complete, but we can mix and match food to reach a complete protein profile. For example, rice and beans, or peanut butter on whole wheat toast gives you a complete profile.
As for other nutrients to watch for, iron, folic acid, vitamin B and zinc are on the list. Luckily by eating lots of healthy foods like the protein sources I’ve mentioned, and lots of healthy fruits and veggies, it’s easy to meet these needs. Be careful not to fall into the “french fries and cheese pizza” diet that a lot of new vegetarians find themselves in – eat a variety of healthy foods and you’ll be fine!
Good luck with your new lifestyle and I hope you get to try and enjoy some new vegetarian dishes!
Amelia Gallant, RD
January 19, 2017
“I spend long days at school, and constantly find myself hungry in between meals. When it comes to mealtime, I often overeat because I am so hungry. Do you have any advice on snacking, and how to make healthy snack choices?”
Thanks for the question!
Having a consistent schedule can be difficult while you’re in university. Often, your schedule varies from day to day, thus your mealtimes change with your schedule. There can be early mornings, late nights and some extremely long days. It can be hard to concentrate if your body doesn’t have food and you’re constantly feeling hungry. Snacking can be a great way to keep your energy levels up throughout the day and keeps you satisfied between mealtimes. Small, balanced snacks can help you incorporate the various food groups into your daily diet. However, poor snack choices or over-snacking can lead to weight gain. Snacks are not meant to replace meals. A well-balanced 200-300 calorie snack can do the trick for you!
Here are some simple tips when it comes to snacking:
- Snack when you are hungry, not bored.
- Drink water throughout the day.
- Make healthy choices. Your snack should include at least 2 out of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide.
- Be mindful about your portions. Snack from single serving containers, rather than multiple serving containers, which can lead to overeating.
- Plan snacks ahead of time. This includes planning them into your grocery list.
- It’s better to take a snack from home rather than purchasing something on the go, which can lead to less nutritious choices.
- Avoid mindless eating. (i.e. Snacking while watching tv, reading, driving, working on the computer).
- Limit snacks to no more than 3 a day
- Avoid snacking when bored or stressed. Try going for a walk instead.
- You can have a small snack before bed to keep you satisfied throughout the night. You should not go to bed feeling hungry.
Healthy Snack Ideas:
- 1 Medium fresh fruit (banana, apple or orange)
- 2 cups air-popped or low fat microwave popcorn
- 2 Tbsp of nut (unsalted peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews)
- 1 slice of whole grain bread with 1 Tbsp hummus
- 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce and 1 small bran muffin
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter with medium apple